Baltimore City Interstates - Cancellations

The following information is from a review of a Roads to the Future folder of MDOT SHA information about the Baltimore Interstate highway system, that contains various materials dating from 1977 to 1985. This article cites the cancellation dates  for proposed segments of I-70, I-170 and I-83. While these materials don't have the exact dates, they do pin it down at least to the year. The final cost estimates and the reasons for the cancellations are of interest also.

3.1 miles of I-70 between western city line and I-170 - officially canceled in 1981.
Reason - Unacceptable impacts to Leakin Park and to Gwynns Falls Park.  The 1979 estimated cost for the highway in the MDOT CTP (Consolidated Transportation Program) was $146 million. The funding was transferred through the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Interstate Transfer Program (whereby federal funds from deleted Interstate sections could be used to finance other highway and mass transit projects), to help fund the Owings Mills Extension (Section B) of the Baltimore Metro Subway, which was built 1982-1987.

4.4 miles of I-83 between downtown and I-95 - officially canceled in September 1982.
Reason - Robert Douglas, chief of Bureau of Design for Interstate Division for Baltimore City (IDBC), stated in January 1985 that the very high financial costs are what caused the I-83 extension to be cancelled.

The brochure "Transportation Improvements in the East Baltimore I-83 Corridor" (Roads to the Future has a copy) was published in December 1982 by MDOT SHA and IDBC, and it evaluated various boulevard improvements in lieu of the cancelled extension of I-83. The 0.75-mile-long Jones Falls Boulevard (today's South President Street) originated from this proposal, a 6-lane boulevard completed in 1987, which extends from the truncated south end of the I-83 Jones Falls Expressway into the downtown city streets, providing a smooth traffic transition between the end of I-83 and the city streets (the temporary terminus had an inadequate transition). A number of surface street complete reconstructions (very needed as most were in poor condition) were undertaken in Fells Point, Canton and East Baltimore, in the general corridor of the cancelled I-83 extension. The brochure had this to say about the I-83 extension cancellation (in blue text):
I-83 was planned as an Interstate Route connecting the Jones Falls Expressway (I-83) to I-95. In 1979, the proposed extension of the I-83 Expressway was advanced to the Final Environmental Impact Statement stage of project planning. The cost of this Recommended "Full-Build" Alternative, however, was $609 million (1979 dollars) and could be expected to approach $1 billion in construction costs with inflation.  Baltimore City reviewed the cost estimate for the Recommended "Full-Build" Alternative and concluded that it would be unable to fund the project. This conclusion prompted the Interstate Division for Baltimore City to study new, low-cost alternatives for each segment of the project corridor.

Since the original Interstate highways in the U.S. were built with funding shares of 90% from the U.S. Highway Trust Fund and 10% from the respective state, the logical interpretation of the above quote would be that the City of Baltimore's state highway allocations were insufficient to fund the 10% share of the project (when competing with all the other needed city road improvements), which would be close to $100 million spent over several years, which would have been a lot of state highway dollars to spend in one city in 1982-1985 dollars.

The I-83 funding was transferred through the FHWA Interstate Transfer Program, to many other road and transit projects throughout the Baltimore-Washington region. Per a Roads to the Future review of the proposed project list back around 1985, there were at least 2 dozen projects proposed. More research is needed to find out what projects were eventually funded from the I-83 money, in addition to the aforementioned surface street reconstructions in the general corridor of the cancelled I-83 extension, and the $340 million 1.5-mile extension of the Baltimore Metro Subway from the Charles Center Station to Johns Hopkins Hospital, which opened in May 1995.

These proposed highway segments were proposed as being built as a continuous highway as Interstate I-595, after the 1981 cancellation of the 3.1 mile segment of I-70 between western city line and I-170, and these segments were officially canceled in July 1983 --
0.9 miles of I-70 between I-170 and I-95
0.9 miles of I-170 between I-70 and existing I-170

The 1.4-mile-long segment of I-170 in the Franklin Street / Mulberry Street corridor, which was opened in 1979, would have also been part of the 3.2-mile-long I-595. The re-designation of this isolated section of I-170 to US-40, would have occurred soon after the July 1983 cancellation of proposed I-595, since that is when it became known that I-170 would never be connected to the Interstate system.

Reason for the cancellation of I-595 - in an August 31, 1983 letter to the Roads to the Future author, from a transportation engineer of the Interstate Division for Baltimore City (quote in blue text):
I-595 was withdrawn from consideration in July of this year. In its place the monies will be spent on a host of other projects, including an extension of our soon-to-be opened subway from Downtown to Hopkins Hospital and a large number of road and bridge rehabilitation projects. These projects will be funded under the "Interstate Transfer" Program, whereby Federal Funds from deleted Interstate Sections can be used to finance other projects. The decision to delete I-595 was made because many of our streets and bridges are in great need of repair, and if we had to use our local revenues to finance the local share of I-595, we would have even less money left over for our surface street repairs. Our needs for transit improvements and bridge repairs are pressing.

The 1982 estimated cost for completing I-595, listed in the MDOT CTP, was $358 million. That cost was in addition to the $97 million that had already been spent for the 1.4-mile-long segment of I-170 which opened in 1979. The CTP entry also says that the I-595 designation was pending official approval. So this proposed I-595 designation only existed for about a year, and it never did have a final official approval (i.e. federal approval). So, I-595 was cancelled for much the same reason as that of the I-83 extension, that the City of Baltimore's state highway allocations were insufficient to fund the 10% share of the project when competing with all the other needed city road improvements.

When the Leakin Park segment of I-70 was canceled, that eliminated a considerable portion of the utility of the remaining parts of proposed I-70 and I-170 in the city; and while I-595 would have directly connected I-95 to the western and northern parts of the central business district (which I-95 and I-395 does not do), the overall benefit of I-595 would have been considerably less than that if the I-70 Leakin Park segment had been built also, thus completing I-70 in the city.

The brochure "Transportation Improvements in the West Baltimore I-595 Corridor" (Roads to the Future has a copy) was published by MDOT SHA and IDBC in January 1983, and it evaluated various alternatives for I-595. Most of the highway would have been built on elevated viaduct structure, the I-70 portion over the Gwynns Falls creek valley, and the I-170 portion over many street crossings and crossing twice over the Conrail/Amtrak railroad.

Based on the cost estimates in the 1979 and 1982 CTP, it was projected to cost $504 million to complete the proposed sections of I-70 (4.0 miles) and I-170 (0.9 mile). Including the 1.4-mile-long segment of I-170 which opened in 1979 at a cost of $97 million, the total estimated cost for building these 6.3 miles of I-70 and I-170 freeway would have been $601 million at that time.

Roads to the Future Related Articles

Baltimore Interstate System Map
Baltimore Harbor Interstate System Map
I-70, I-170, I-95, I-395, I-83 Interchanges
I-70 in Leakin Park
Baltimore Early Expressway Planning

Lead article Baltimore City Interstates

Copyright 2007 by Scott Kozel. All rights reserved. Reproduction, reuse, or distribution without permission is prohibited.

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By Scott M. Kozel, Roads to the Future

(Created 5-8-2007)